It’s been two years since I was in downtown Cleveland but the last time I looked there was no grassy knoll outside Quicken Loans Arena and LeBron James was not standing on it.
That’s about the only conspiracy theory that wasn’t out there this weekend after Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt was abruptly and unexpectedly fired with his team holding the best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference at 30-11.
The internet exploded with opinions, tweets and columns which mostly said one thing. And that one thing was that LeBron James had gotten Blatt fired.
Cavaliers general manager David Griffin’s role got little notice, possibly because most people didn’t even know who the Cavs’ general manager was before Friday. Owner Dan Gilbert’s potential role wasn’t given much attention, either, even though he is an impatient micro-manager with strong opinions about much smaller matters concerning the franchise than hiring and firing coaches.
Nope. It had to be LeBron is all you heard.
To paraphrase countless football coaches talking about quarterbacks, maybe the face of the franchise gets too much credit when things are going well and gets too much of the blame when things aren’t going well.
Was Blatt LeBron’s favorite choice to coach the Cavaliers? Almost certainly not.
Did his opinion matter? Yes. And it probably mattered a significant amount. But did he call this shot by himself? Probably not.
My friend Jason Lloyd, who covers the Cavaliers for the Akron Beacon Journal, tweeted in the first hour after Blatt was fired that it was not just LeBron but the entire locker room that did not connect with their former coach.
That sounds like a polite way of saying the players didn’t think he was much of a coach and didn’t listen to him.
Blatt was hired nearly a month before James announced he would return to Cleveland. Hiring a coach who had been highly successful in professional basket in Israel and Russia but had no NBA experience was a think-outside-the-box move by Gilbert.
Blatt nearly got fired last season when the Cavaliers lost 20 of their first 39 games.
A huge second half of the season and somehow being competitive with Golden State in the NBA finals without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love changed the perceptions of Blatt on the outside. But apparently not inside the locker room.
Blatt now will take up residence in the Colt McCoy condo or maybe grab a chair on the Brady Quinn terrace where Cleveland fans gather to say that someone of middling talent could have been really good if they’d just been given more of a chance.
In a way, you’d have to agree with them about Blatt. You can call him a bad coach all you want but 83-40 in a season and a half is not a bad record.
And the Cavaliers’ management put him in a tough spot from the start when it hired Tyronn Lue, the runner-up for his job and the man who has now replaced him, as an assistant coach.
LeBron has been very skilled at getting what he wants since he was a high school wonder child who had his own entourage and the keys to a $50,000 vehicle while he was at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
If he wanted Blatt gone, his opinion certainly played a role. But it wasn’t his overpriced Nikes alone that kicked Blatt out the door.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.